Law Practice Management and Technology

The Bottom Line Volume 34, No.2, April 2013

MCLE Self-Study Article: Entrepreneurship and Innovation in Legal Services – Ideas for All Lawyers

By Professor Renee Newman Knake, Michigan State University College of Law
Co-Founder, ReInvent Law Laboratory

Legal expertise no longer is sufficient to cultivate a rewarding and meaningful career in the law. All the legal knowledge in the world is of little value if clients cannot access it.

One of the most pressing issues facing the profession in the 21st century is the “justice gap”: millions of people who need legal representation cannot afford or access a lawyer. The overwhelming majority of this country goes without much-needed legal help because they simply cannot afford to pay a lawyer three-figures-per-hour for multiple hours, but they also do not qualify for the limited legal aid programs available. The legal profession faces a delivery problem—we have failed to develop viable models for delivering legal services that are affordable, accessible and, importantly, adopted by clients who utilize them on a regular, sustained basis.

Meanwhile, thousands of lawyers are unemployed, and law schools continue to graduate new attorneys at record levels. For these attorneys, individuals in the gap represent an opportunity – an enormous untapped market. Thus the legal profession also faces a matching problem – we struggle to pair appropriately qualified lawyers with clients who need them.

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